Preserving the purity of sacred knowledge

Preserving the purity of sacred knowledge

Why God sent messengers

During the history of the world, since its creation, whenever nations became awash with confusion, God sent them a prophet or a messenger to guide them and show them the right path. As the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was the last and the final messenger, he (peace be upon him) left behind a legacy; whoever follows it will be saved and whoever denies it will not. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ explained that the knowledge he ﷺ brought would benefit those who responded to it, and would be a loss for those who ignored it.  

عن أبي موسى الأشعري قال‏:‏ قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏:‏ ‏ “‏إن مثل ما بعثني الله به من الهدى والعلم كمثل غيث أصاب أرضاً فكانت منها طائفة طيبة، قبلت الماء فأنبتت الكلأ والعشب الكثير، وكان منها أجادب أمسكت الماء، فنفع الله بها الناس فشربوا منها وسقوا وزرعوا‏.‏ وأصاب طائفة منها أخرى ، إنما هي قيعان لا تمسك ماء ولا تنبت كلأ‏.‏ فذلك مثل من فقه في دين الله، ونفعه بما بعثنى الله به، فعلم وعلم، ومثل من لم يرفع بذلك رأساً، ولم يقبل هدى الله الذي أرسلت به‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏متفق عليه‏)‏‏)‏ ‏.‏

Abu Musa (may God be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of God ﷺ said:

“The similitude of guidance and knowledge with which God has sent me is like a rain which has fallen on some ground. A fertile part of earth has absorbed water and brought forth much grass and herbs. Another part, which is solid, held the water and God benefits men thereby, who drank and gave others to drink, and used it for irrigation. But some of it has fallen on a portion of sandy land which neither retains the water nor produces herbage. Such is the likeness of the man who understands the religion of God and who gets benefit of what God has sent me with; he learns and teaches others. It is also the likeness of the man who neither raises his head on that account (meaning he does not benefit from what the Prophet ﷺ was sent with) nor accepts God’s Guidance with which I am sent”. [Bukhari and Muslim]

Acquiring sacred knowledge

In this narration the Prophet (peace be upon him) is showing us that the knowledge God has sent with him is our way to God Almighty. Let’s not forget that the very first verse God revealed was Iqra. Iqra is a command form in Arabic, which means to recite or to read.

It is has been an obligation for us to learn from day one and from verse one. It is not a matter of chance that the very first word of the very first ayah, revealed was Iqra. It could have been anything else, such as ‘Pray’, or ‘Communicate with others’, but God Almighty chose the word Iqra, which is the symbol of knowledge. This is very significant, as it shows that from the beginning authentic, divine and pure knowledge is the basis of our religion. That is exactly what the Prophet ﷺ was sent and he ﷺ conveyed.

In a beautiful ayah in Surat Yusuf, in the Quran, God Almighty says:

﴿١٠٨﴾ قُلْ هَٰذِهِ سَبِيلِي أَدْعُو إِلَى اللَّهِ ۚ عَلَىٰ بَصِيرَةٍ أَنَا وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِي ۖ وَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ وَمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ

Say, “This is my way: I invite to God, based on clear knowledge — I, and whoever follows me. Glory be to God, and I am not of the associators.” [12:108]

God Almighty is telling the Prophet (peace be upon him) what to say to us, his followers, believers, and everyone, He is telling the Prophet ﷺ to invite people to his way – the clear way to God, and therefore whoever follows him (i.e. the Prophet ﷺ) follows clear, divine and authentic knowledge.

The purity of sacred knowledge

The invitation is to move away from ignorance, superstition and fallacy to clear knowledge means that whoever follows Islam has to have a sound foundation in their understanding, it has to be based on clear and authentic knowledge. Whoever follows Islam must not remain in a state of ignorance or confusion.

In a very significant episode during the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ, while he was sitting with his Companions, the angel Jibril in the well-known narration appeared in the form of a mysterious, handsome man. Jibril posed questions about Islam, which the Prophet ﷺ answered and clarified, unaware that he was replying Jibril, until he left. The narration was reported by Umar (may God be pleased with him), who said:

While we were one day sitting with the Messenger of God ﷺ, there appeared before us a man dressed in extremely white clothes and with very black hair. No traces of journeying were visible on him, and none of us knew him. He sat down close by the Prophet (peace be upon him), rested his knee against his thighs, and said, “O Muhammad! Inform me about Islam.”

The Messenger of God ﷺ said, “Islam is that you should testify that there is no deity except God and that Muhammad is His Messenger, that you should perform salah, pay the Zakat, fast during Ramadan, and perform Hajj to the House, if you are able to do so.”

The man said, “You have spoken truly.” We were astonished at his questioning him (the Messenger ﷺ) and telling him that he was right, but he went on to say, “Inform me about iman.”

He (the Messenger of God ﷺ) answered, “It is that you believe in God and His angels and His Books and His Messengers and in the Last Day, and in qadar (fate), both in its good and in its evil aspects.” He said, “You have spoken truly.”

Then he (the man) said, “Inform me about Ihsan.” He (the Messenger of God ﷺ) answered, “It is that you should serve God as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet (know that) He sees you.”

He said, “Inform me about the Hour.” He (the Messenger of God ﷺ) said, “About that, the one questioned knows no more than the questioner.” So he said, “Well, inform me about the signs thereof.” He said, “They are that the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, that you will see the barefooted, naked, destitute, the herdsmen of the sheep (competing with each other) in raising lofty buildings.” Thereupon the man went of. I waited a while, and then he (the Messenger of God ﷺ) said, “O Umar, do you know who that questioner was?” I replied, “God and His Messenger ﷺ know better.” He said, “That was Jibril (the Angel Gabriel). He came to teach you your religion.” [Muslim]

Jibril was sent by God Almighty to the Prophet (peace be upon him) to pose these questions to teach the Ummah this methodology of asking and answering, passing knowledge from the chest to the chest.

Sacred knowledge is not self-taught through books

Knowledge cannot be learned only by reading or through research, but has to also come from qualified and experienced teachers who know the subject and pass it on from chest to chest. This is why, as Muslims we are so proud that our religion is based on authentic knowledge which has been passed down to us through an unbroken chain that reaches all the way back to the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself. This is how true knowledge has been preserved down the ages.

The preservation of sacred knowledge

Islam is based on the divine Book (the Quran) revealed at the time of the Prophet ﷺ, coupled with knowledge of how he explained its meaning through his own practical example (the Sunnah). The Quran has been preserved, (as is plain from the fact there has only ever been one version of Quran in 14 centuries), but in addition, the authentic Sunnah has also been transmitted alongside it, accompanied by an entire science for authenticating it, known as Uloom al Hadith.

When God promised to protect sacred knowledge, as He said in the Quran, His promise included the Sunnah as neither the Quran nor the Sunnah can be understood correctly without recourse to the other.

“We have undoubtedly sent down the Reminder, and We will truly preserve it. [The Quran 15:9]

The science of verifying every narration by the Prophet ﷺ commenced during his lifetime and continued to develop over centuries. The science is a systematic process by which narration attributed to the Prophet ﷺ is checked for its accuracy as well as the credibility and background of every single person who passed it. This is necessary because the Prophet ﷺ taught us that our knowledge has to be genuine, and its source has to be trusted and reliable.

The process of verifying sacred knowledge

Anas bin Malik (may God be pleased with him) relayed how a man who had learned Islam from one of the Companions, came to the Prophet ﷺ to check that what he had been taught was accurate:

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، قَالَ نُهِينَا أَنْ نَسْأَلَ، رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنْ شَىْءٍ فَكَانَ يُعْجِبُنَا أَنْ يَجِيءَ الرَّجُلُ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْبَادِيَةِ الْعَاقِلُ فَيَسْأَلَهُ وَنَحْنُ نَسْمَعُ فَجَاءَ رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْبَادِيَةِ فَقَالَ يَا مُحَمَّدُ أَتَانَا رَسُولُكَ فَزَعَمَ لَنَا أَنَّكَ تَزْعُمُ أَنَّ اللَّهَ أَرْسَلَكَ قَالَ ‏”‏ صَدَقَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَمَنْ خَلَقَ السَّمَاءَ قَالَ ‏”‏ اللَّهُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَمَنْ خَلَقَ الأَرْضَ قَالَ ‏”‏ اللَّهُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَمَنْ نَصَبَ هَذِهِ الْجِبَالَ وَجَعَلَ فِيهَا مَا جَعَلَ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ اللَّهُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَبِالَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاءَ وَخَلَقَ الأَرْضَ وَنَصَبَ هَذِهِ الْجِبَالَ آللَّهُ أَرْسَلَكَ قَالَ ‏”‏ نَعَمْ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ وَزَعَمَ رَسُولُكَ أَنَّ عَلَيْنَا خَمْسَ صَلَوَاتٍ فِي يَوْمِنَا وَلَيْلَتِنَا ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ صَدَقَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَبِالَّذِي أَرْسَلَكَ آللَّهُ أَمْرَكَ بِهَذَا قَالَ ‏”‏ نَعَمْ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ وَزَعَمَ رَسُولُكَ أَنَّ عَلَيْنَا زَكَاةً فِي أَمْوَالِنَا ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ صَدَقَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَبِالَّذِي أَرْسَلَكَ آللَّهُ أَمْرَكَ بِهَذَا قَالَ ‏”‏ نَعَمْ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ وَزَعَمَ رَسُولُكَ أَنَّ عَلَيْنَا صَوْمَ شَهْرِ رَمَضَانَ فِي سَنَتِنَا ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ صَدَقَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَبِالَّذِي أَرْسَلَكَ آللَّهُ أَمَرَكَ بِهَذَا قَالَ ‏”‏ نَعَمْ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ وَزَعَمَ رَسُولُكَ أَنَّ عَلَيْنَا حَجَّ الْبَيْتِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلاً ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ صَدَقَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ ثُمَّ وَلَّى ‏.‏ قَالَ وَالَّذِي بَعَثَكَ بِالْحَقِّ لاَ أَزِيدُ عَلَيْهِنَّ وَلاَ أَنْقُصُ مِنْهُنَّ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ لَئِنْ صَدَقَ لَيَدْخُلَنَّ الْجَنَّةَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏مسلم.

We were forbidden that we should ask anything (without the genuine need) from the Holy Prophet. It, therefore, pleased us that an intelligent person from the dwellers of the desert should come and asked him (the Holy Prophet) and we should listen to it. A man from the dwellers of the desert came (to the Holy Prophet ﷺ) and said: Muhammad, your messenger came to us and told us your assertion that verily God had sent you (as a prophet). He (the Holy Prophet ﷺ) remarked: He told the truth. He (the Bedouin) said: Who created the heaven? He (the Holy Prophet ﷺ) replied: God. He (the Bedouin again) said: Who created the earth? He (the Holy Prophet ﷺ) replied: God. He (the Bedouin again) said: Who raised these mountains and who created in them whatever is created there? He (the Holy Prophet ﷺ) replied: God. Upon this he (the Bedouin) remarked: By Him Who created the heaven and created the earth and raised mountains thereupon, has God (in fact) sent you? He (the Holy Prophet ﷺ) said: Yes. He (the Bedouin) said: Your messenger also told us that five prayers (had been made) obligatory for us during the day and the night. He (the Holy Prophet ﷺ) remarked: He told you the truth. He (the Bedouin) said: By Him Who sent you, is it God Who ordered you about this (i. e. prayers)? He (the Holy Prophet ﷺ) said: Yes. He (the Bedouin) said: Your messenger told us that Zakat had been made obligatory in our riches. He (the Holy Prophet ﷺ) said. He has told the truth. He (the Bedouin ﷺ) said: By Him Who sent you (as a prophet), is it God Who ordered you about it (Zakat)? He (the Holy Prophet ﷺ) said: Yes. He (the Bedouin) said: Your messenger told us that it had been made obligatory for us to fast every year during the month of Ramadan. He (the Holy Prophet ﷺ) said: He has told the truth. He (the Bedouin ﷺ) said: By Him Who sent you (as a prophet), is it God Who ordered you about it (the fasts of Ramadan)? He (the Holy Prophet ﷺ) said: Yes. He (the Bedouin) said: Your messenger also told us that pilgrimage (Hajj) to the House (of Ka’bah) had been made obligatory for him who is able to undertake the journey to it. He (the Holy Prophet ﷺ) said: Yes. The narrator said that he (the Bedouin) set off (at the conclusion of this answer, but at the time of his departure) remarked: ‘By Him Who sent you with the Truth, I would neither make any addition to them nor would I diminish anything out of them. Upon this the Holy Prophet ﷺ remarked: If he were true (to what he said) he must enter Paradise. [Muslim]

During his lifetime, there were many different occasions when a Bedouin would come from the desert to the Prophet ﷺ with questions. As this narration shows, on one of these occasions, a Bedouin came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said, “You have sent us your messenger” because the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to send some of his well-respected and knowledgeable Companions, such as Mu’adh ibn Jabal or Ali bin Abu Talib (may God be pleased with them) and others to go and teach Islam to the tribes around Madinah and so on. They would teach them the religion, how to worship and how to fulfil the religious duties such as praying, fasting and giving zakat. This man, who was probably the head of the tribe, came to verify that what they were being taught was accurate. “Do we have to pray 5 times a day?” The Prophet ﷺ was not offended by his questions, rather he acknowledged that the ambassador he sent was indeed his student. He replied in a kind and approachable way that what they had been taught was correct. He confirmed all the details, as hr had replied to Jibril. Scholars have observed that these show from our earliest history, that Islam was spread through knowledge accompanied by authentication. That Bedouin wanted to be 100% sure that he had understood the religion correctly – after all it would be it impact him personally, his family, his community and his afterlife. What if there were gaps? He wanted the knowledge first hand, not second had, so travelled to the source – the Prophet ﷺ to obtain this confirmation.

Never pass on any sacred knowledge without checking its authenticity first

This is a very beautiful way, from early days in the message, the prophets (peace be upon him) acknowledged and emphasised the importance of authentication of knowledge. This is a lesson to us that we need to authenticate and double check the knowledge we acquire as well. We cannot simply pass on any narration we receive, unless we too are 100% sure it is correct. We cannot just narrate and relate anything we hear.

In this narration, the Prophet (peace be upon him) is establishing the rules to follow that one has to learn – double check what you are taught. Even spiritual knowledge must be authenticated.

Even if something sounds good, it has to be checked before you pass it on

We cannot follow everything just because it feels good; this is not the way to authenticate the knowledge.

I remember once one of my friends was delivering the Friday sermon (khutbah). He came from a well-respected family, and his father was a very knowledgeable and well-known for spirituality. However, the khutbah he delivered was based on two inauthentic narrations. When he finished the khutbah, I approached him privately and thanked him nicely, but advised him to be careful as the two narrations were inauthentic and it is wrong to spread them, particularly from the pulpit. The audience would share them further with their friends and family.  Although I mentioned this in private to my friend, he was offended and said that it has ruined his spirituality to be told they were not authentic narrations.

It is not true spirituality unless it confirms and conforms to what is in the Quran and Sunnah. If something is not authentic, we cannot base our spiritual experience on it.  That is the what the Prophet ﷺ taught us.

One of my teachers, Shaykh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah used to have a beautiful statement:

Everything the Prophet ﷺ said was beneficial and beautiful, but not everything beneficial and beautiful can be attributed to the Prophet ﷺ.

Therefore even if you see a narration which sounds beautiful and makes you feel uplifted, unless it is authentic you should not share it.

Faith has to be based on the Quran and Sunnah

Here are some of the top statements by the top scholars in spirituality.

قال الإمام الجنيد البغدادي (ت297هـ): طريقنا مقيد بالكتاب والسنة ، فمن لم يحفظ القرآن ولم يكتب الحديث، ولم يتفقه، لا يُقتدى به.

Imam al-Junayd al-Baghdadi (d. 297 AH) said:

Our path (the path to God) is restricted by the Quran and the Sunnah, so whoever does not memorise the Quran, does not write Hadiths (narrations of the Prophet ﷺ), and does not understand Fiqh, cannot be followed.

1- التمسك بكتاب الله 

2- والاقتداء بسنة رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم 

3- وأكل الحلال  

4- وكف الأذى

5-واجتناب المعاصي    

6- والتوبة        

7- وأداء الحقوق

Sahl bin Abdullah Al-Tustari (d.283H) said:

Our principles are seven:

  1. Hold fast to the Book of God
  2. Follow the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ
  3. Consume only what is halal. (This includes your rizq, your earnings, your provisions)
  4. Refrain from harm. (Don’t harm anyone, physically or morally)
  5. Avoid sins – both inward and outward.
  6. Repent for your sins. (Tawbah)
  7. Fulfil your duties / give others’ their rights (huqooq).

There are two types of duties huqooq:

1) To fulfil God Almighty’s rights through worshipping Him properly, ritual purification (ghusl wudu), prayer, and spiritual purification.

2) To fulfil peoples’ rights. Treat them well in all your dealings – verbally, in transactions, in your attitude and behaviour towards them. If you wrong somebody, it is not sufficient to ask God for forgiveness as you also have a duty to make amends to the one you wronged. God cannot forgive you on behalf of the person you wronged, you need to seek their forgiveness as well as God’s to be completely forgiven.

Sufism, tasawwuf and ihsan

Tasawwuf (literally, ‘to dress in wool) is also known as Sufism – the discipline of spirituality. Yet, sadly sometimes people claim they are true Sufis when they do not follow the principles of tasawwuf. The word tasawwuf is unpopular with some Muslims, so it might be better termed tazqiya (spritual purification)or ihsan, which is how to connect with God Almighty at an inner level.

وحكى العارف الشعراني (ت973هـ): في مقدمة الطبقات: إجماع القوم على أنه لا يصلح للتصدر في طريق الله عز وجل إلا من تبحر في علم الشريعة.

Al-Arif Al-Sha’rani (d. 973 AH): In his introduction to the Tabaqat said that the consensus of scholars that religious leadership based on of tasawwuf alone is not adequate. It has to be practiced with knowledge of Shariah (Islamic law). Do not follow someone who has no knowledge of the Shariah, even if they are on the spiritual path. Their teachings have to be based on solid foundations, which are the Quran and Sunnah. Hence, whoever is not following authentic knowledge cannot be followed.

وقال الشيخ الإمام أبو الحسن الشاذلي (ت656هـ) }: من دعا إلى الله تعالى بغير ما دعا به رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فهو دَعِيّ.

Shaykh Imam Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili (d. 656 AH) one of the masters of spirituality said:

Whoever calls to God Almighty other than what the Messenger of God ﷺ is an imposter.

The Prophet ﷺ in another beautiful narration said:

عَن جَابر بن عبد الله يَقُول جَاءَتْ مَلاَئِكَةٌ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَهْوَ نَائِمٌ فَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ إِنَّهُ نَائِمٌ‏.‏ وَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ إِنَّ الْعَيْنَ نَائِمَةٌ وَالْقَلْبَ يَقْظَانُ‏.‏ فَقَالُوا إِنَّ لِصَاحِبِكُمْ هَذَا مَثَلاً فَاضْرِبُوا لَهُ مَثَلاً‏.‏ فَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ إِنَّهُ نَائِمٌ‏.‏ وَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ إِنَّ الْعَيْنَ نَائِمَةٌ وَالْقَلْبَ يَقْظَانُ‏.‏ فَقَالُوا مَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ رَجُلٍ بَنَى دَارًا، وَجَعَلَ فِيهَا مَأْدُبَةً وَبَعَثَ دَاعِيًا، فَمَنْ أَجَابَ الدَّاعِيَ دَخَلَ الدَّارَ وَأَكَلَ مِنَ الْمَأْدُبَةِ، وَمَنْ لَمْ يُجِبِ الدَّاعِيَ لَمْ يَدْخُلِ الدَّارَ وَلَمْ يَأْكُلْ مِنَ الْمَأْدُبَةِ‏.‏ فَقَالُوا أَوِّلُوهَا لَهُ يَفْقَهْهَا فَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ إِنَّهُ نَائِمٌ‏.‏ وَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ إِنَّ الْعَيْنَ نَائِمَةٌ وَالْقَلْبَ يَقْظَانُ‏.‏ فَقَالُوا فَالدَّارُ الْجَنَّةُ، وَالدَّاعِي مُحَمَّدٌ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَمَنْ أَطَاعَ مُحَمَّدًا صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ اللَّهَ، وَمَنْ عَصَى مُحَمَّدًا صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَدْ عَصَى اللَّهَ، وَمُحَمَّدٌ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَرْقٌ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ‏. رَوَاهُ البُخَارِيّ.

Jabir bin `Abdullah (may God be pleased with him) narrated:

Some angels came to the Prophet ﷺ while he was sleeping. Some of them said, “He is sleeping.” Others said, “His eyes are sleeping but his heart is awake.” Then they said, “There is an example for this companion of yours.” One of them said, “Then set forth an example for him.” Some of them said, “He is sleeping.” The others said, “His eyes are sleeping but his heart is awake.” Then they said, “His example is that of a man who has built a house and then offered therein a banquet and sent an inviter (messenger) to invite the people. So whoever accepted the invitation of the inviter, entered the house and ate of the banquet, and whoever did not accept the invitation of the inviter, did not enter the house, nor did he eat of the banquet.” Then the angels said, “Interpret this example to him so that he may understand it.” Some of them said, “He is sleeping.” The others said, “His eyes are sleeping but his heart is awake.” And then they said, “The houses stands for Paradise and the call maker is Muhammad; and whoever obeys Muhammad, obeys God; and whoever disobeys Muhammad, disobeys God. Muhammad separated the people (i.e., through his message, the good is distinguished from the bad, and the believers from the disbelievers). [Bukhari]

In another narration, the Prophet (peace be upon him) drew a line in the sand indicating a straight line and other lines – the straight path is what God has sent, the others are routes to Satan.

وَعَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ مَسْعُودٍ قَالَ خَطَّ لَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ خَطًّا ثُمَّ قَالَ: «هَذَا سَبِيلُ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ خَطَّ خُطُوطًا عَنْ يَمِينِهِ وَعَنْ شِمَالِهِ وَقَالَ هَذِهِ سُبُلٌ عَلَى كُلِّ سَبِيلٍ مِنْهَا شَيْطَانٌ يَدْعُو إِلَيْهِ» ثمَّ قَرَأَ (إِن هَذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيمًا فَاتَّبعُوهُ) الْآيَة. رَوَاهُ أَحْمد وَالنَّسَائِيّ والدارمي

‘Abdallah bin Mas’ud (may God be pleased with him) told how God’s Messenger ﷺ drew a line for them and then said:

“This is God’s path.” Thereafter he drew several lines on his right and left and said, “These are paths on each of which there is a devil who invites people to follow it.” And he recited, “And that this is my path, straight; follow it…”  [Ahmad, Nasa’I and Darimi]

Whoever wants to be safe in the Hereafter has to follow the Prophet ﷺ – it is as simple as that. If you receive a narration, authenticate it. Ask a person of knowledge to verify it or check it through the websites dedicated to authentication of hadith, such as Sunnah.com and ahadith.co.uk and abuaminaelias.com.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

“Telling lies about me is not like telling lies about anyone else. Whoever tells lies about me deliberately, let him take his place in Hell.” [Bukhari]

“Telling lies about me is not like telling lies about anyone else.” [Muslim]

Therefore it is a sin (haram) to attribute a saying to the Prophet (peace be upon him) which does not belong to him. This is a severe warning to us, as the base of our knowledge is Quran and Sunnah. If we attribute sayings to him, no matter how beautiful they seem, they corrupt the purity of the sacred knowledge which has been passed down. As happened with previous revelations, as they did not have a method of preservation and authentication, and over time, the purity of the scriptures was compromised, and the message became invariably corrupted. 

The nature of revelations

Praise be to God, we have the mechanism of authentication and the rules to preserve divine revelation, whether it is the Quran, or Hadith, as scholars consider Hadith as revelation.

There are two types of revelation:

1) Recited revelations – wahi al matlu i.e. Quran

2) Non-recited revelations – wahi ghayrul matlu i.e. Hadith

The criteria of what is recited vs non-recited knowledge, is whether this revelation can be uttered during salah or not. If it can be recited in salah, it is recited revelation. If not, it is non-recited revelation.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is the Messenger of God Almighty. He taught us to reach Paradise, and showed us the path to God, which is the path to Paradise. God Almighty promised in the Quran that whoever follows the Prophet (peace be upon him) is truly guided:

“Say (O Muhammad): “if you (really) love Allah then follow me (i.e. accept Islamic monotheism, follow the Quran and Sunnah), Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [3:31]

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ حُفَّتِ الْجَنَّةُ بِالْمَكَارِهِ وَحُفَّتِ النَّارُ بِالشَّهَوَاتِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏مسلم.

Anas bin Malik (may God be pleased with him) reported:

Paradise is surrounded by hardships and the Hellfire is surrounded by temptations. [Muslim]

For the lay person it is not easy to authenticate everything they read and receive, but unless you do this, you are neglecting your obligation towards your deen. We have the obligation to prevent any additions, which are an easy and slippery slope to Hell. Attaining Paradise requires effort, but the fruits are eternal bliss.

How to navigate your way to God

The Prophet ﷺ taught his people (the Ummah) how to navigate their way to God Almighty safely.  We need to follow the Prophet ﷺ, his companions and authentic scholars. We need to learn how to preserve and protect the knowledge we are receiving. The knowledge we receive is a trust (amanah).

If people criticise you for doing this, or say you belong to a certain group for being fastidious about this, it is not a matter of belonging to any group, it about being adult and mature enough to get learn how to get your facts right.

I like to give my students the tools so they can make their own way. Use the tools and get the qualifications and do your own research. Rather than sharing airy fairy quotations which are misattributed. We need to have sustainability in the knowledge. When you have the tools, you will be able to spot what is right and wrong with experience. In the first instance, gain the basics of the Quran, Sunnah, and the biography (seerah) of the Prophetﷺ and the basics of fiqh (which is legal rulings). Fiqh is a broad topic which includes the essential dos and don’ts of salah, transactions, etc.

O God, keep us on the straight path. Enable us to follow the footsteps of the Prophet (peace be upon him).  Help us to preserve and protect our religion. Enlighten our hearts with the truth. Help us to see it and follow it and implement it and defend it. Forgive our parents, our teachers, our offspring, our spouses, our loved ones. Keep us all on the straight path, O Lord of the Worlds, peace and blessings on our Master Muhammad ﷺ. Ameen

Shaykh Haytham Tamim – New Muslim Group 1st March 2022

Transcribed by Shamaila Jawaid

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.